The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (EXTINCT!)
(June 20, 1995 - October 12, 2003)
History and photos of The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter thrilling attraction in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
The story of The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter begins with Flight to the Moon, the original attraction in the northern show building in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom.
Opening on December 24, 1971, Flight to the Moon took park guests on a somewhat educational trip to the Earth's Moon. After visiting a mock-up of NASA's Mission Control facility in the attraction's preshow, guests would then enter the main show room. The circular room had several rows of seats all facing inward to view screens mounted on the floor and ceiling. Additional screens were mounted on the wall. The room itself was supposed to be the interior of a rocket.
The show itself involved a simulated rocket flight to the Moon, and a return trip to Earth. 1972 saw the last of NASA's Apollo lunar missions with the launching of the final Moon flight, Apollo 17, on December 7, 1972. As public interest shifted away from the Apollo missions, so did public interest in Flight to the Moon. It was time to take theme park guests on a more distant journey into outer space.
Flight to the Moon closed in the spring of 1975. The attraction was quickly converted into a new version, Mission to Mars, and it opened on June 7, 1975.
Mission to Mars had the same general format as Flight to the Moon. Guests would experience a preshow in a mock-up of NASA's Mission Control facility. The preshow was hosted by scientist Dr. Johnson. At one point in the preshow emergency alarms would sound and we would see footage of an albatross bird making a crash landing. After learning about Mars and the mission, the guests would then be ushered into one of two identical theaters with the rows of inward facing seats.
The main experience of Mission to Mars began with a simulated rocket launch to Earth orbit. The bottom of the seats would deflate to help simulate the higher gravitational forces during lift-off. Round screens on the floor and ceiling in the center of the room would show footage of our flight as our rocket climbed away from Earth. Once in Earth orbit, the seats would inflate and simulate a weightless environment of space.
The rocket would then use an advanced engine and make a hyperspace flight to Mars. Otherwise we'd be sitting in that room for the three or so months it would ordinarily take to make such a flight. Like during lift-off, the seats would deflate to simulate the rocket's powerful engines as we race through space. The rocket would then arrive at Mars and then detach a robotic satellite to scan the planet's surface. A crew member, Third Officer Collins, would help narrate our voyage along with Dr. Johnson. The rocket would descend and approach the Martian surface. Just before we're able to land, suddenly there's an emergency and we have to abort the mission. The rocket flies away from Mars and makes a second hyperspace flight back to Earth. The rocket then made a vertical landing back at the launch pad.
Mission to Mars ended and the park guests were urged to return again for another mission to Mars.
Like Flight to the Moon, Mission to Mars was never a huge hit with the theme park crowds. This was an attraction to experience in the heat of the day when everything else was busy. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was becoming more and more rare to see any crowds at this attraction. It was just a matter of time until Mission to Mars saw its final flight to our neighbor in space.
Mission to Mars closed for good on October 4, 1993. Its replacement would prove to be something truly interesting, something that you may never have expected inside of a Disney theme park.
The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter had its grand opening on June 20, 1995, about a year after the rest of New Tomorrowland had opened.
Like the two previous attractions, the general format of Alien Encounter was the same. Guests would experience two preshows and then the attraction itself in a theater with several rows of seats facing the middle of the room. This time, instead of being seated inside of a rocket and flying into space, guests would experience a scientific demonstration that brought somebody from deep space into that very room. Of course, the experiment didn't go as planned . . .
The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter took place inside of the Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center. We're there to hear about the company X-S Tech and its latest scientific breakthroughs.
Inside of the waiting room are signs telling us about X-S Tech and some of its accomplishments. The company's proud slogan is "Seize the future!" Overhead television monitors show advertisements for other events being held at the convention center. One upcoming event is titled "Mission to Mars: History or Hoax" (a small tribute to the previous attraction in that building, Mission to Mars). Suddenly the television screens jump into action and we're greeted by a female alien spokeswoman (played by Tyra Banks). She takes us on a quick tour of the company and some of its accomplishments. She also assures us that X-S Tech's latest innovation is well worth our while.
Next on the television screen is the company's chairman, L. C. Clench (played by Jeffrey Jones). Chairman Clench informs us that he was pleased when his researchers discovered planet Earth and all of its inhabitants in need of his company's technology. This is not for his profit, of course, but rather to help less developed civilizations like us upgrade our technology to advanced levels. Chairman Clench then invites us to ". . . seize the future with X-S!"
So far, so good.
"Welcome weary travelers to the great big universe of X-S."
We're next ushered to Alien Encounter's second preshow room. The audience stands in three rows that all face towards a demonstration area. In front of us is an X-S Tech robot named S.I.R. (voiced by Tim Curry) which stands for Simulated Intelligence Robotics. He stands behind a control panel, and on each side of the room is a small X-S-Tech teleportation pod. Inside one of the pods is a furry little alien named Skippy. He wants to get out of the pod but S.I.R. reminds him that he is our "lucky volunteer" for the demonstration.
S.I.R. then asks us how we would like to travel ". . . anywhere, any time at the touch of a button." The answer is the X-S Series 1000 teleportation system. He then uses the teleportation system to beam Skippy across the room from one pod to another. As we see, S.I.R. accidentally used too much power and the teleported version of Skippy is a little bit burned. When Skippy complains about it to S.I.R. he simply teleports him back to the other pod. Skippy is disintegrated again and sent back through the air as a "mass of molecules," but S.I.R. suddenly suspends the process in mid-teleportation, killing the creature. That happens to be S.I.R.'s favorite feature of the machine.
"Soon one of YOU will seize the future with X-S!"
The show turns even more sinister when S.I.R. gives us a grander vision of this teleportation technology not merely sending a person across a room but instead across a galaxy or even a universe. He then informs us that one of us will be teleported in the next phase of today's demonstration by X-S Tech.
We're then escorted into one of two identical demonstration rooms, each one with several rows of seats facing the middle of the room. In the middle of the room stands a much larger version of the X-S Series 1000 teleportation pods. On the ceiling is a catwalk and a bunch of tubes and wires, all of which are needed to operate the sophisticated teleporation machine.
"I've been seized."
After we're all seated the television monitors come to life. We're greeted by two X-S Tech employees, Spinlok (played by Kevin Pollak) and Dr. Femus (played by Kathy Najimy). They're talking to us "live" from across the galaxy, and it's time to start the demonstration. Special modules lower onto our shoulders and begin "scanning" the members of the audience, checking for somebody just right for teleportation. Just as the lucky person is selected, Chairman Clench storms into the room at X-S Tech. He informs us that it's a mistake teleporting somebody from the audience to the world of X-S Tech as he would only be able to greet one of us. However, if Chairman Clench is instead beamed to Earth, then he can meet all of us, shaking every hand and personally answering any questions about X-S Tech.
This throws a curve to Dr. Femus as the machines were originally configured to teleport somebody from Earth to X-S, and not the other way around. Chairman Clench grows impatient and yells at Spinlok to teleport him to Earth. Dr. Femus isn't ready yet when Spinlok goes to her control panel and presses the button to start the process. Chairman Clench is disintegrated at X-S and beamed towards Earth.
Suddenly there's a problem.
The path to Earth isn't clear. There's another planet in the way.
Dr. Femus temporarily loses the chairman in the chaos. She thinks that she locates his form and finishes the teleportation process. There's a bunch of loud noise as Chairman Clench is reassembled inside of the teleportation pod in front of us.
But it's not Chairman Clench.
"Since when does Clench have wings?"
It's an alien! It's furious!
"It broke the tube!"
The alien is quickly scanned and it's learned that it is carnivorous. The alien begins fighting against the glass walls of the pod. Suddenly the power fails in the demonstration room, it's pitch black, and we hear the creature smash through the glass. There's a quick burst of air as it does so. Dr. Femus quickly activates a laser beam cage around the creature, trapping it, but the power fails again and we hear the creature escape to the upper catwalk. We also feel the alien bump against our seat as it runs around. It's hiding up there as the power flickers on and off again.
"X-S Lab, this is Maintenance One. We've got major damage. What's going on in there?"
We're sitting in the dark as Spinlok and Dr. Femus quickly contact a maintenance man and get him into the demonstration room to restore the power. We can see his flashlight as he walks along the catwalk. The repair man hears the alien up there, but he follows the path and re-connects the power cable. When he turns around he stares right into the face of the alien. The alien quickly kills the repair man, knocks out the power again, and then drags his body on the catwalk above us. We can feel the blood (drops of water) landing on us as the alien drags the dead body.
"Hey, alien! Don't eat me. Eat this one!"
There's more chaos as the room is pitch black and we can hear and feel the alien again and again. Spinlok tries to keep us calm, but that doesn't work. We can feel the alien try to lift our shoulder harness. We then feel the alien walk behind us, breathe on our neck, and then flick its tongue on our head.
Suddenly Dr. Femus is able to restore power to the demonstration room. She activates the speakers inside of the teleportation pod and screams, attracting the alien back into the pod. Once it's inside of the tub again they attack the alien by overloading the power inside of the teleportation tube. They keep doing so until the tube's cover descends and the alien explodes.
The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter ends with the shoulder harnesses raising and Spinlok and Dr. Femus trying to search the galaxy for their missing company chairman. The exit path went down a hallway and emptied into the Merchant of Venus store. Occasionally inside of the store you would see the alien's red eyes flash inside of one of the upper air vents, implying that the fierce alien actually survived the demonstration.
That's how The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was presented to Magic Kingdom visitors from 1995 until 2003.
It was a loud attraction. It was intense. It was definitely NOT designed for the kiddies, even if they're able to meet the 44" height requirement.
Unfortunately, that final aspect led to the attraction's downfall.
Despite the warning signs and the extremely creepy and sinister theming outside the show and in both preshows, parents still took little kids to the Alien Encounter attraction. And, as expected, the kids would be terrified and the parents would complain to park management about the scary show. The attraction earned negative attention because of it being so scary for little kids, and the crowds dwindled to low levels. It was just a matter of time before park management finally closed the attraction.
Was it wrong for the Magic Kingdom to have a legitimately scary attraction? Does every single ride have to cater to little kids? Can't there be a thrill just for the teenagers and parents?
The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter closed for good on October 12, 2003.
It's replacement, Stitch's Great Escape!, officially opened just over a year later on November 16, 2004. Oddly enough, Stitch's Great Escape! is still frightening to kids, but it's not as intense or frightening as Alien Encounter.
It's really a shame that Alien Encounter had to close and be replaced. That was a terrific one-of-a-kind attraction that was evil, intense, and just an outstanding sensory experience. It's easy to see how the attraction gathered a cult following during the show's later years. Alien Encounter fit perfectly with the theming of the New Tomorrowland, and it was just a fun experience.
It was always best experiencing Alien Encounter in the evening when the crowds were much lower. You didn't have as many screamers in the group, and you could hear all of the amusing background commentary throughout the show.
Alas, The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter is no more. This was a freaky little attraction that showed a much darked side of Disney.
|TRIVIA #1||This is actually the second version of The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. When Disney CEO Michael Eisner experienced the original version of the show, he told the Imagineers to make it scarier.|
|TRIVIA #2||The S.I.R. robot was originally voiced by Saturday Night Live veteran Phil Hartman. Actor Tim Curry gave the robot his voice when the show was modified and made scarier.|
|TRIVIA #3||The company X-S Tech had a short commercial in SMTV, the television channel that played in the final part of Space Mountain's line queue. SMTV was removed from the Space Mountain line queue in 2004.|
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